Heritage of the Site
Win Fluke's Award!
Read About the Wolf
Gift Art from Visitors of the Site
Fluke Fiction

Balto Story Line
Movie Screen Shots
Downloadable Movie Clips
Music Info and MP3s
Play An Instrument?
Things I've Bought
Shop for it!
Price Advice for Balto Stuff
Various Production Stuff
Who is this dog?? We need to know!
The Answer to the Whitewolf Mystery!!
The Most in Depth Balto History on the Net!
Magazine Reviews and Cuttings

The first screenshots of Balto 3 on the net!
The first movie clips of Balto 3 on the net!
Balto 3 Music!
Balto 3 Review written by yours truly!

Balto Books Scanned For You!
Backgrounds etc
Things You Can Use on Your Own Website!
Opticual Illusion and Hopefully More
Balto Colouring Book

Fan Artwork
Learn How to Draw CGI
My Cells
The Icy Boards


Critical Review of ‘Balto: Wings of Change’
By Acanis

The DVD box is more attractive than the “newer” Balto and Wolf Quest DVD/videos. The characters look more true to the original and Balto has obviously cleaned himself up this time and had a shave. The DVD artwork still has that plastic look to the characters, but with the exception of Kodi’s scary eyes, it is an attractive package.

The DVD itself
The DVD I have is from Germany, a PAL region 2 disc, it has an English 5:1 soundtrack and s presented in widescreen format. Aside from the movie for a moment, the DVD extras are like the Wolf Quest DVD (and the US Balto DVD), i.e. disappointing. There is a Land Before Time #324542andsomething trailer which I have no bothered watching yet and a game.

The game however isn’t that bad although obviously aimed at children especially with that Barneyesque voiceover. A lot from the first movie has been used and it is a nice blast from the past that will encourage more people who haven’t seen the original to seek it out and buy or rent. It is nice to see a reference to the original that obviously enchanted so many people in the first place.

The DVD options do flow very well, when you click on the option, part of the movie plays and it flows into the next screen. It is quite nice and it doesn’t give anything away if you haven’t seen the movie yet. It is much more interesting than the flicking between screens on the previous 2 DVDs.

I would have liked to have seen more extras, the people at Universal who work that part out need to take a page from Disney’s book here but realistically there is not much point due to the audience this movie is aimed at.

Now onto the movie itself.

First Impressions
The art work is what hits you first, it looks more natural than Wolf Quest, the backgrounds themselves have the look of oil and acrylic paints which again is much more true to the original movie and this time less corners have been cut, where the sky has actually been drawn in places, and in others blended into animation a lot better, and the water looks a lot less like a computer generated oil slick.

The town is very true to the original movie, you can recognise places we have seen before. The surrounding area is also much more realistic and linked to the original and more of the town is opened up to the viewer. Details have been added which all help in a realistic impression of what Nome should look like and the music kicks in straight away and is very rewarding to listen to.

Unlike Wolf Quest, we actually have human characters which make the whole movie a lot more believable from the beginning.

Balto is obviously back along with Jenna, Boris, Muk ‘n’ Luk and Kodi if you count him from Wolf Quest (voiced by Sean Astin of Lord of the Rings fame [Balto was a better movie anyway so you can understand the switch!]). Unfortunately there are still no sign of any other well loved original characters.

Of course there are new characters too, sled dogs in Kodi’s team, the bush pilot “Duke”, town dogs and the goose known as ‘Stella’.

Character art
The characters have definitely been drawn to a higher standard, Balto is less rounded in his features (like the original), Jenna doesn’t look like a drug addict anymore and her paws are small (again like in the original) and the other dogs although new, could have been taken right out of the original movie background character list. Even Muk and Luk seem to have had time taken on them to keep them looking original.

Oh yeah and a very important fact, Balto has yellow eyes again!! This time round, it actually looks like the artists have really done their homework; it appears they have studied the original Balto artwork (which must have been hard as I own most of it!) and have really been inspired to make a really nice finished product. It feels like these drawings are warmer and full of more emotion than in Wolf Quest.

Kodi impressed me, in Wolf Quest although Aleu was Balto and Jenna’s daughter, she never felt like she was. Kodi on the other hand has Balto and Jenna traits in him, in his looks, his movement, his emotions, his facial expressions etc. And this time there seemed to be a real connection between father and son which was really nice to see.

One thing I did notice was the highlights and shadows. Like Wolf Quest it looks like someone has gone mad in Photoshop with the airbrush, lighten and darken tools but unfortunately not used the magic wand tool. Although these are in many places done quite tastefully, I did notice that there was some confusion as to where the light source was coming from and (very small) bits were missing. A good example was the shadows the characters cast on the floor. These shadows should appear to be going underneath the character’s feet and bodies but just as the dark patches come in contact with the line drawing, it stops just short leaving a very thin (a pixel or two) patch of background around them which looks almost like an opaque glow. Despite this the characters do seem to react with their environment more compared to Wolf Quest, moving parts of it, kicking snow and dirt up etc without “becoming one” with anything.

The animation has improved dramatically since Wolf Quest. Fewer corners have been cut and the character’s movement is a lot nicer and more fluid. The way they are drawn too has a very nice 1995 movie feel to it. The human characters and the animal characters have maintained that scratchy almost angular look to them which just feels right and almost reflects the harsh environment around them. We all know real wolves don’t have triangular ears like that but like the yellow eyes, without them, any true Balto fan knows it just isn’t right.

As I have stated already, less corners have been cut, animation has not been looped as much especially while dogs have been running. Time has been taken to make individual frames which again remind me of the original, the dogs and humans all move a lot more naturally and the characters are making full use of the whole screen and not just stuck in the middle.

There is still room for improvement though, you still see frames where the legs are moving and body is not reacting in the way you would expect but these are few and far between so they can be overlooked.

Kodi is one of the most pleasing characters and actually looks like the offspring of Balto and Jenna, his behaviour, movement and facial features/expressions are very reminiscent of Balto which is a vast improvement on his daughter Aleu. The way he moves and talks reflects his father so well you find yourself remembering scenes from the original movie.

I did find as I watched the movie that the animators have been more adventurous with camera angles this time but unfortunately the animation and character design can suffer in places where the stranger angles are almost a bit too difficult to draw right (e.g. looking up at Jenna’s white masked face and some rear views of the running sleddogs). But again this is a small problem that is not common in the movie.

Computers have obviously been used in the movie but relied on less or at least hidden with greater success. The original movie did use a lot of computers to colour frames, add the snow etc and a more minimalist approach has been taken with modern technology here. The snow affects are back from the first and they look just as good. The plane has obviously also been CGI animated in places and almost reminds me of the style in Futurama.

Speaking of CGI, the CGI water does make a return however it is much better than the fluid in Wolf Quest, it is still obviously computer generated but this time it fits in a little better than before but I think there is still room for improvement here.

What I did find surprising was 3D animation in the movie alla Shrek. It was noticeable but it did fit in quite well and it was of high quality which is surprising for a DTV movie. However this sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. During a white water scene, the computer animation looks too smooth and not as natural as you would expect. Personally it appears the CGI works better for the man made objects rather than natural material.

This is another area that has been improved upon, I found a lot of acting in Wolf Quest to be quite wooden in places especially with Aleu but this time the cast has pulled out all the stops. Kodi is voiced by non other than Sean Astin from “Lord of the Rings” and provides a really good deep character full of emotion.

Balto, Jenna and Boris are all voiced by the previous actors from Wolf Quest but this time Jenna has become a much stronger female character much like she was in the original with Bridget Fonda and Boris actually sounds Russian rather than Jewish too. Balto sounds pretty much the same as in Wolf Quest and I still am waiting for him to mutter the words “…try to take over the world!” which is what Disney seems to be doing with all these sequels at the moment! There are parts where he sounds more like Kevin Bacon than others but on the whole it is a good performance.

The background music was interesting. It did keep the sound of the original Balto (James Horner could have written it) and then some surprising tracks were thrown in, I was not expecting to hear a jazz band complete with drum kit playing, but this 1920’s style swinging jazz actually worked really well and left me confused as to how it could possibly work as well as it did.

Throughout the whole movie though, the background music is subtle and not overpowering at all. It provides accents to the scenes which helps portray the mood which is what background music should do.

The story flows a lot better than Wolf Quest and is more believable as there is no becoming one with trees and mice in general. Although it is no Shakespeare it is a nice story that will keep you entertained and this time seems to have an adult audience in mind. Same goes for some adult jokes particularly coming out of the mouth of Stella the goose and at another point where a dog says “what the ff….” which made me laugh.

The story itself is packed with events this time, while watching I found myself looking at what happened so far and then looking at the movie counter and thinking wow there is still a lot more to go! I didn’t get bored with the story or wish it to hurry up at all; I only wish it was longer like I do with the original too.

It is obvious that the original writers are back (in a good way) as the script alone is written in such a way that Balto, Jenna and all the other original character act how they should do and say little phrases that remind you of the original. These traits are also passed onto Kodi too who as already stated actually acts like the son of Balto.

What was nice to see was a real relationship between Balto and Kodi unlike Aleu which just didn’t feel natural to the viewer. Kodi holds Balto with much respect and is a hero/roll model to him, very different to his sister. I enjoyed this aspect of the movie as Kodi did seem to be a much deeper character; he was like his dad but still an individual with individual opinions and feelings. That admiration and respect was something that was missing from Wolf Quest and I am glad they have included/found it in Wings of Change.

Another aspect in the script was a lot of references dropped in. As Wolf Quest played it was evident that Balto’s famous act was all forgotten especially with the comment that he is still teased about his wolf heritage. However in ‘Wings of Change’, everyone knows what he did, he is Balto the Hero, the dog who saved Nome! This movie flows a lot better on from the original than Wolf Quest does script and story wise and works really well for the die hard Balto fan.

A minor fault I found though was there seemed to be a lot of moralistic views repeated by the same or different characters through the movie but this cannot really be avoided in an animated movie that is mostly aimed at children.

This time, the story I personally believe is what all Balto fans want, sled dogs being sled dogs around Nome, day to day life of the hero we all love and following him (as the main character and not shadowed by his offspring) doing what he wants and aspires to do. As a Balto fan the story has pleased me

“Balto: Wings of Change” has been a truly surprising experience. In all honesty I did not know what to expect from the movie at all as the aspects I had seen before (just 2 screenshots and the trailer) were good, Wolf Quest was still in my mind. Although Wolf Quest was OK in it’s own right when not compared to the original (which was hard to do), it never could stand up and hold a candle to the original movie on different levels. But it was not a bad movie, it just wasn’t as good as Balto and most fans weren’t used to the new voice actors back then. Wings of Change however blew those worries out of my head, although Kevin Bacon will always be the perfect voice for Balto, the animation, story and Sean Astin makes up for that many times over. This leaves you with a sequel that Balto himself should be proud of.

The production crew of Balto 3 seem to have really made a heart felt effort to bring the fans what they truly wanted in a Balto movie. It seems like they have thoroughly read up all the comments us fans have made and posted about the world of Balto and created a movie to fit our needs and make us proud rather than making a quick movie to generate some revenue.

Final Thoughts
Although this movie has pleased and excited me, putting a big smile on my face, I do hope this is the last one. Part of me is greedy and wants more Balto but I know in my heart that this should be the end of the Balto saga. All aspects have now been covered, Balto’s fight to be accepted and to become a hero/sleddog, the wolf side of his heritage being explored and now finally his dog side. This makes a fitting end to a well loved story, I only hope that if there is another we don’t see any baby Boris’s running/flapping around, the world can only take one at a time!

Balto is property of MCA and Universal studios. I do not claim any rights to Balto, nor do I say that he or any of the other characters are my own. I do however say that Fluke is totally original and my property ©Acanis2000-Forever. Do not use him with out my permission. All items on this page, unless otherwise stated all belong to me so don't use them on your own site without my permission.